An epic wildlife battle film with a cast of millions that depicts a war that has been going on since the beginning of time, “The Besieged Fortress” portrays the mortal conflict between a colony of termites and an invading army of driver ants. Amazing closeup cinematography provides an arresting, intimate view of the tiny combatants, but the “plot” feels too prefabricated and manipulated by half. And, let’s face it, insects don’t measure up to penguins as protags, meaning this latest stab at putting a dramatic twist on a nature docu will land mostly on TV internationally rather than in theaters.
Shooting in an arid, colorful stretch of Burkina Faso, helmer Philippe Calderon plants his flag with the termite monarchy, a civilization expert at creating towering earthen fortresses worthy of a medieval castle; the 10 million ants are the pillaging barbarians. Many shots — of the throbbing termite queen producing 30,000 eggs per day, the ants rolling over everything in their path and, most of all, termites making their way through their ornate castle — are striking to behold, but the concocted battle scenario proves just too hokey in its myriad cliched inventions.